Dohee Kwon on how her illustration practice provides both artistic and spiritual growth
The dreamy artworks of the Thailand-based artist reflect her personal tastes and her ability to look beyond practical considerations.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 7 June 2023
After working for five years as an in-house graphic designer at an agency and then a global brand, South Korean artist Dohee Kwon said she found the “fast culture” of the work draining. In the background, a “long and steady urge” to find the right path had been building, and this eventually crescendoed one day when – as she spent more time developing the illustrative side of her practice – Dohee got a message from acclaimed three-piece band Khruangbin asking her to design a series of posters for their latest tour. “After the posters got released, I quit my office job and became a full-time illustration artist,” she recalls.
This was 2018, and the chance connection with one of her favourite bands felt like it was written in the stars (or the sky, perhaps). Not only does the word ‘Khruangbin’ mean ‘aeroplane’ in Thai, but Dohee had long been interested in aviation, and the illustration she had made that was first spotted by the band’s bassist Laura Lee was of a plane. The opportunity set her off down a new path, and this time it felt like the right one. “That’s how I started to spend more time on illustration,” she explains. “I loved just being myself and keeping my creative energy running wild in a way that wasn’t accepted in other fields.”
Now, five years later, Dohee’s urge to illustrate is as strong as ever, and her enviable portfolio is testament to the work she’s put into honing her skills. Not only has she collaborated with Khruangbin again on another poster (this time featuring an aeroplane window), but she’s also worked with world-renowned brands and publications such as Bandcamp, The Washington Post and Penguin Random House, the latter of which she designed a cover for a new edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, one of her favourite books.
Key to Dohee’s success is likely her ability to balance a distinctive and enticing visual style with a deeper, thoughtful approach to her work. Not only does she have a sharp eye for colour and composition, but she also draws heavily on “music and mindfulness” when it comes to her creative process. These two, she says, are endless sources of inspiration for her. “They’re the best friends for introverts like me. I’m allowed to explore, play, let things go and learn in the safe and comfortable space they each provide. They are like my secret tools for any situation, bringing me a sense of tranquillity.”
Beyond this, Dohee also manages to marry her creative ambitions with her personal life, embracing the parts of her that make her who she is. For instance, a recent ADHD diagnosis provided clarity around certain aspects of her personality, and how these find their way into her work. “I've come to understand my life better since receiving the diagnosis,” she says. “Nevertheless, my artistic aspirations have stayed the same. I continue to explore and develop ways to express the emotions and ideas that whirl around in my mind onto a canvas. I hope people can observe my spiritual growth through my artwork.”
Dohee Kwon: 1.5°C Magazine 1 (Copyright © Dohee Kwon, 2022)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.